‘It’s not just an issue over there’: Candlelight vigil honors lives of Iranian women


Marwa Farid

Rahman Tashakkori and other faculty organized a candlelight vigil in honor of Iranian women Oct. 10.

Jenna Guzman, Editor-in-Chief

App State faculty hosted a candlelight vigil Monday in honor of the lives of Iranian women lost in light of recent “unrest” in Iran. 

Rahman Tashakkori, a computer science professor, said he and other faculty decided to come together and hold the vigil after the many demonstrations in Iran.

“They asked for people to support,” Tashakkori said.

Following the death last month of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman who died under morality police’s custody after being arrested for allegedly not wearing her head covering correctly, protests sparked around the country of Iran. The country has had a mandatory head-covering rule since 1979, when Iran’s revolution ended.

Women in Iran have been removing and burning their head scarves as well as cutting their hair as a protest in honor of Amini. However, as a result of these protests, over 185 people have been killed, according to Iran Human Rights, a non-profit organization located both inside and outside of Iran. One of which was 16-year-old Nika Shakarami, who was seen protesting prior to her death.

Over 30 people participated in the vigil held on Sanford Mall, including App State’s Chief Diversity Officer Jamie Parson and Judy Haas, the dean of students.

The vigil included different guest speakers and was held in front of Anne Belk Hall on Sanford Mall. (Marwa Farid)

Organizers handed out flyers with images of victims and other flyers with phrases written on them. They also gave each attendee a lit candle. 

“The most basic freedoms are taken and the price that they pay today is the lives of a lot of women in particular because they are asking for the most basic things,” Tashakkori said in his opening message to the crowd. 

Tashakkori said the problem isn’t only about the head coverage laws. He said it goes beyond that and the women deserve to have basic human rights.

“These people are not asking for too many things,” Tashakkori said. 

After Tashakkori’s opening message, Parson took the floor.

“How long? How long do we push into pain? How long do we push with waning hope? And how long do we push?” Parson said. “The death of Mahsa Amini and others is not just an issue for Muslim women. It’s not just an issue for women. It is not just an issue over there.”

The next speaker was Sharareh Nikbakht, a math professor at the university. She told the audience the events leading up to Amina being killed.

“She died because she was practicing her given rights, which is freedom: to be free, to live your own life,” Nikbakht said. “We are standing in solidarity with all the oppressed people, especially people of Iran.”

Nikbakht said she hopes others will learn more about the events happening in Iran and more about the people whose lives were lost.

Rahman Tashakkori and his brother Abbas Tashakkori, who was also present at the vigil, lived in Iran prior to moving to the United States in the ’90s.

“I’m the child of revolution,” Rahman Tashakkori said.

Rahman Tashakkori said when he lived in Iran during the revolution so many years ago, they were hoping to achieve freedom, independence and equality for all but “it didn’t happen.” Today, he said he still hopes for the same thing. 

Abbas Tashakkori said it takes “a tremendous” amount of courage to protest and stand up to authorities. 

“When I see this, I can’t stop admiring the courage of these young women,” Abbas Tashakkori said.

After discussion, participants took a collective walk around Sanford Mall while holding their candles and flyers. Following the walk, attendees gathered to make final comments.

Rahman Tashakkori said holding the vigil on a college campus was important because “majority of people who were arrested in the past 20 days were students.”

Grace Fox, a freshman recreational management major, said she attended the vigil to support the women in Iran, as it is a topic important to her. She said hearing about everything happening in the country has been “awful” but it’s been “inspiring” to see all the actions protesters are making.

“This is it. This is the fight,” Rahman Tashakkori said.